One of the best tech advances in mountain biking is the dropper seat post and every bike should have one. Yes…even your rigid single speed or crazy light XC race bike. I am going to tell you why.
Before we get into the straight up details…let’s play a little game. Let’s say you saw this downhill bike setup. What would you tell the rider?
How about this BMX bike at your local park or jump track?
Or how about a really fun one…this dirt bike setup…
You would think they were all crazy right? Why the hell do they have the seat so high? It is just going to get in the way and it is not natural.
However, that is how mountain bikes have been treated for years. So let’s look at why that is the case and how the dropper post has changed mountain biking forever.
Why is our seat so high up to begin with?
The simple answer…we don’t have a motor. We are possibly the only offroad sport that has to use our legs to get where we are going. A lot of times this equals a lot of time in the saddle climbing and pedaling to get to our favorite sections of trail. To fully optimize this setup, our legs have to be slightly bent at full extension with our knee slightly over the balls of our foot. You know all of the bike fitment rules. It gives us the most efficient pedal stroke — while seated — so we can get the most power to the ground as efficiently as we can. It allows us to ride longer and climb faster.
Much of mountain biking over the years has also been a road bike up push rather than a downhill bike down on how technology and fitment effects the ride. Beginning mountain bikes were no more than taking road geometry with fatter tires. I can still remember the rigid bike on 1.8 tires days with flat bars and steep geometry. Luckily over time…mountain bikes have really segmented into a real offroad vehicle with travel, slacker geometry and bigger tires to better accommodate trail riding. They still require the same motor though…our legs.
If we did not have that one factor that set us apart from the other offroad disciplines of 2 wheel transportation…our saddle height would default to the same position as the rest of them…low.
Why your saddle should be low and out of the way
There are fundamental reasons why your saddle should be low and out of the way of your body while you ride when you are not climbing. And guess what…it doesn’t all have to do with being able to get your weight back in steep sections which some assume is the only purpose of a dropper post.
Proper Turning on Trails
I am sure you have heard the riders that don’t like dropper posts say it is because they need the saddle to balance/turn the bike. If it is out of the way…they can’t do it correctly. Well guess what? They are doing it wrong. Proper turning on a mountain bike requires the bike to be able to move independently of your body. You need to be able to lean the bike in certain circumstances to corner correctly and smoothly. Whether it be to lean the bike over farther for more grip or get your weight back to rail a berm…you can not do this with your seat up in the optimal climbing position. Just because you are used to riding with it up…that doesn’t make it the correct way to do it.
Weighting and Unweighting the Bike While Riding
Riding smooth and fast on trails is greatly dependent upon how you ride the bike. While you are riding downhill and through flatter fast sections, you should be weighting and unweighting the bike on the trail to smoothen it out, skip small obstacles and keep momentum. To do this, you have to be able to bend your knees and get low on the bike to compress the suspension and then unweight the bike from that sequence. You can not do this correctly if you can not move your body enough to make it happen. This skill is one that I consider probably the most important in riding and it is made much easier/possible with the addition of a dropper post. BMX and motorcross use this technique a lot also.
Ideal Climbing Height Every Time
There are some riders that will just say “I can just put my seat post down for long decents and then raise it at the bottom”. The issue with doing this is that you most likely will not get your saddle to your correct height for optimal climbing. You’ll either get it a little too tall or short and that will effect your efficiency and could cause knee issues. A dropper post will go to the exact height you need with a push of a button and it will be right every time.
It Allows you to get your weight back
The fun one that is everyone’s default answer. Yes…it greatly increases your ability to get your weight back on steep trails for more controlled riding.
Better control on the trail
We do not ride road bikes. We have rocks, roots, down trees…you name it…to contend with. This means that the bike can unexpectantly try to slide out from under us or bounce without notice at speed. With your saddle out of the way, you do not run the risk of an unexpected maneuver of your bike to throw you on the trail or buck you over the handle bars because the saddle will not be giving you a nice push. You need the mountain bike to be nimble enough to overcome unexpected changes in the trail and that is not possible if your movement is restricted.
Common Complaints about Dropper Posts
There are probably even more reasons to come up with on why dropper posts on mountain bikes are a necessity…but now let’s look at the common complaints.
This is probably the number one complaint I hear from riders that aren’t wanting to put a dropper post on. First, dropper posts have come down in weight tremendously over time. With better materials and advancements in their technology, they can be almost 1/2 the weight they used to be back in the day when our options were really limited. 9point8 actually has one now that only weighs 385 grams including the remote!
The weight is also centered on the bike which makes it less noticeable. XC racers are adopting dropper posts for their benefits so recreational riders really can’t use the complaint excuse anymore. Bike tech has come such a long way.
Reliability of Dropper Posts
I will admit…back in my magnet style Gravity Dropper days…there were some reliability issues. All of the dropper posts I have used in the past couple of years have been trouble free through hard riding. Manufacturers have really figured out how to make the posts a lot more reliable than in the past. It still is a moving part so things can happen but they don’t nearly fail as much as some would like to believe.
Increased Clutter on the Bars
I remember the days of trying to figure out exactly where to put the switch and how it would interact with the other components on the bars. It was really hard to figure out on bikes that had the old school Shimano windows on the shifters. As shifters got to be more low profile, fitment became much easier. Now that the front derailleur has finally died off…it is stupid simple. The switch just took it’s place. No more clutter issues.
I’m just as fast as my friends that have one
First…this is a pretty lame excuse that is filled with an ego trip. We aren’t pro riders where tenths of a second can be measured with a simple component change and not everything is a race. We ride with our friends and our friends have a wide range of abilities and styles. That comment alone makes you sound like an asshole.
That aside…you would be faster with one once you got used to it. Having your seat all the way up your ass the entire ride makes you compensate with inproper technique to overcome the fact that you are not as mobile on the bike as you should be.
The Single Best Advancement in Mountain Bike tech
The dropper seat post is the single best advancement in mountain bike technology. Finally…we have a way to get the seat where it needs to be for all situations outside of climbing and flat pedaling sections. We were the last of the offroad 2 wheeled riders to finally get a way to do this and it has helped the riding of a lot of riders since it has gone mainstream.
There is a reason that almost every bike released right now comes with one.